Cleaning leeks

This tasty and rich soup is fairly easy to make, though the puffed black ginger rice takes some time (worth it!). The star is undoubtedly the sweet potatoes—a staple of African American cooking. The leeks play a supporting role, deepening the flavor of the soup. A smattering of cashew cream adds a velvety texture to the base of the soup, and a drizzle of coconut cream adds both flavor and visual interest. The idea for the topping comes from my wife’s sizzling rice soup, Chinese vegetables in a light veggie broth sprinkled with crispy rice. Here ginger-scented, deep-fried Forbidden Rice adds texture and gives the soup a boost of flavor. To save time, boil and bake the rice in advance, then deep-fry it just before serving so it’s hot and puffy. Of course, you can skip the rice and enjoy the soup with toasted bread.


puffed black ginger rice

1 cup black Forbidden Rice, soaked in water overnight and drained

1 tablespoon ginger juice (from ½ cup coarsely shredded fresh ginger

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

sweet potato leek soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks (2 or 3 medium, white parts only)

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

5 cups vegetable stock, plus more as needed

1¼ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ cup Cashew Cream

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

Freshly ground white pepper

to finish

1 cup coconut oil, for frying

½ cup minced fresh cilantro

Coconut Cream

Flaky sea salt, for finishing

Start the rice: In a small saucepan, combine the rice, ginger juice, salt, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, quickly decrease the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice has absorbed the water, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, to steam for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With a fork, transfer the rice from the saucepan to the prepared baking sheet. Spread it in an even layer, separating the rice grains as much as possible with the fork. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the rice dries, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside until ready to deep-fry.

Make the soup: In a medium saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the leeks and the salt, decrease the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are meltingly tender but not brown, about 20 minutes.

Add the stock and sweet potatoes. Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium. Simmer, partially covered, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

In batches, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cashew cream and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and white pepper. Gently warm through over low heat; do not allow the soup to come to a boil. Add additional broth or water as needed to thin the soup (it should easily pour from a spoon).

Finish the rice: Just before serving the soup, line a plate with paper towels. In a wok or small saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat to 375°F (if you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, drop in one grain of rice to see if it puffs up—if it does, the oil is ready). Working in batches, add the rice to the hot oil and fry until it puffs up, floats to the top of the oil, and has a brownish hue, 15 to 20 seconds. With a stainless steel spider, transfer the rice to the paper towel—lined plate to drain. Repeat to fry the remaining rice. Transfer the rice to a medium bowl and stir in the cilantro. Mix well.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with coconut cream, and generously top with the puffed rice and cilantro. Finish with a sprinkle of flaky salt and serve.

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